Gold Secrets and Public Lies
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Do Western Central Banks Have Any Gold Left??? Part II
By: Eric Sprott & Shree Kargutkar
The past few months have been difficult for the gold investor as selling pressure in the gold futures market has set a decidedly negative direction for the price of the yellow metal. As fundamental investors, we always pay special attention to the supply and demand dynamics of gold and, recently, we have found it very difficult to reconcile lower prices with continued strong demand for physical gold.
While the supply of gold has remained largely static, we have seen a steady increase in demand for the yellow metal. India and China have emerged as strong buyers, consuming over half of the mine supply in recent years. Central banks have switched from being sellers of gold to being net buyers, with their gold purchases in 2012 increasing by 17% to almost 535 tonnes. Exchange traded products (ETPs) around the world have continued to add to their gold hoards, as have institutions and private investors. Furthermore, central banks, such as South Korea and Russia, have added to their bullion reserves early in 2013, which points to sustained strength in demand. These facts are important because, over the past decade, the annual supply of gold has stayed flat at approximately 4,000 tonnes.
Much ado has been made about the recent sell-off in the yellow metal forcing certain ETPs to liquidate, adding a supply of gold into the market in the process. Our work reveals that the previous ETP sell-offs, (which occurred in January 2011, December 2011, May 2012 and July 2012) have all coincided with gold finding strong price support and rallying higher.
In our September 2012 MAAG, titled, “Do Western Central Banks Have Any Gold Left???”, we reconciled the annual change in demand for gold between 2000 and 2012 to be almost 2,300 tonnes. We went on to hypothesize that given the massive change in demand, the only suppliers large enough to fill the gap between supply and demand were the Central Banks. Now, our long search for the “smoking gun” to prove our hypothesis appears to have finally materialized.
Every month, the US Census Bureau releases the FT900 document, which outlines US International Trade Data. Going through this document, we were intrigued to see that in December 2012 the US exported over $4B worth of gold and imported around $1.5B worth of gold, representing a net export of $2.5B or almost 50 tonnes1.
This surprising number led us to look at the previous releases of US International Trade Data which go as far back as 1991 – what we found was truly shocking.
Not only has the US been consistently exporting large quantities of gold on a net basis, the amount of gold the US has been exporting is above and beyond what the US should be capable of exporting.
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